Israel Accuses World Vision Gaza Staffer of Giving Millions to Hamas

World Vision halts Gaza operations, but disputes Israel’s accusations of fraud

World Vision has suspended operations in Gaza, the organization stated. “We are conducting a full review, including an externally conducted forensic audit, and will remain fully engaged with the investigation that is underway.”

 

Update (August 9):

World Vision questioned Israel’s accusations that Gaza branch manager Mohammad El Halabi siphoned off tens of millions over the past decade, saying it still has not seen any evidence.

“World Vision’s cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past ten years was approximately $22.5 million, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50 million being diverted hard to reconcile,” it stated.

“Mohammad El Halabi was the manager of our Gaza operations only since October 2014; before that time he managed only portions of the Gaza budget. World Vision’s accountability processes cap the amount individuals in management positions at his level to a signing authority of $15,000.”

World Vision has suspended operations in Gaza, the organization stated. “We are conducting a full review, including an externally conducted forensic audit, and will remain fully engaged with the investigation that is underway.”

Along with Australia, Germany has suspended donations to World Vision’s work in Gaza, World Vision confirmed to CT.

World Vision worked with almost 40,000 children in Gaza last year, providing psychosocial help, medical supplies, food relief, and the re-establishment of agricultural livelihoods, it said.

Meanwhile, Israel today accused a UN engineer of stealing aid meant for Palestinian civilians and giving it instead to Hamas. Wahid Abdallah al Bursh allegedly used UN resources to help build a maritime jetty for Hamas fighters and persuaded the UN to prioritize reconstruction in neighborhoods where Hamas militants lived, the Israel Security Agency said.

Israel said the investigation “proves yet again the way in which Hamas exploits aid resources of international groups in the Gaza Strip which are meant for the civilian population.”

But Hamas accused Israel of ulterior motives.

“These (allegations) are par for the course of an Israeli plot to restrict the work of international relief agencies operating in Gaza in order to tighten the Gaza blockade,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

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Original Post (August 5):

The manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision was charged yesterday by Israeli authorities with funneling millions of dollars to Hamas instead of to Palestinian children in need.

Mohammad El Halabi, who has directed World Vision’s operations in the Gaza Strip since 2010, allegedly listed Hamas members as farmers with disabled children so they could receive assistance, according to an investigation by Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

The ISA report, first broken by Israeli media, alleges that up to 60 percent of Halabi’s budget ended up in Hamas’s hands.

Both World Vision and Hamas deny the claim. World Vision is the world’s largest Christian humanitarian organization, and has worked in Israel and Palestine for 40 years. Hamas is a militant Islamist group elected to govern the Palestinian territory of Gaza and identified by the US government as a terrorist organization.

World Vision advocated for Halabi’s release after he was detained in June, initially unaware of the charges against him. “We have no reason to believe that the allegations are true,” it stated.

According to the investigation by the ISA, Halabi confessed to his involvement. His lawyer has stated that Halabi was looted by Hamas fighters.

The ISA report states that World Vision funds intended for fisherman instead bought diving suits and boats for Hamas’s navy, and money marked for building greenhouses was actually spent on digging military tunnels—while the greenhouses hid the tunnel entrances. Trucks unloaded 2,500 World Vision food packages and 3,300 cleaning and personal hygiene packages directly into Hamas warehouses disguised as World Vision facilities, according to the report.

Another $80,000 from British supporters built a Hamas stronghold during the 2014 war and paid for Hamas members’ salaries, Israeli authorities said. Thousands also went to buy guns for Hamas in Sinai.

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